Music of another decade

I don’t know when I stopped listening to music.

It’s not that I don’t catch a random tune on the radio or keep up with modern hits — peripherally, at least. I mean, I know “Blank Space” and such. I’m not hopelessly out of touch.

Just mostly.

When I was commuting to college, the two-hour drive daily on the Beltway was a medley of Hanson, John Mayer, Maroon 5, The Killers, Coldplay. Circa 2006, coed Meg was pretty hip. My first iPod came as a Christmas present in 2004, and that little pink Mini accompanied me everywhere. I can still remember the long walks across campus with Death Cab for Cutie for company. It was a little lonely back then, I’ll admit — but peaceful, too.


Pink iPod


After graduation, my two-hour commute became a 10-minute back-and-forth to the office. I’ve been fortunate to live and work close to home for the last eight years — a true triumph in the D.C. area — so, you know, car time is at a minimum. And once I discovered listening to audio books, I really gave up the musical ghost.

With the wintry mess outside, I’ve been working from home — and the quiet is weird. I don’t like to work in silence, but the prattle of a television is distracting. I’m used to the hustle and bustle of coworkers’ conversations, phones ringing, text messages dinging . . . even on the days I’m writing furiously, I like background noise.

So I blew the dust off iTunes.

My iTunes library, safely ensconced on my laptop, is a time capsule of my life from 2004-10. Around the time I met Spencer, apparently, I stopped caring so much about music. We don’t even have “a song,” a first for any of my relationships (though we eventually chose one for our first dance). I actually wrote about this in 2011 so, you know, it’s not like this is a new problem . . . but it still startles me sometimes.

Am I doomed to listen to my college-era classics forever?

Am I going to be that person ramming old-school John Mayer down Baby J’s throat when he’d much rather enjoy the dulcet tones of whoever is Taylor Swift in a decade?

Part of me realizes I’ll likely never care about music the way I once did. Not because it’s changed so much, exactly . . . but because I have. In our teens and twenties, when everything is fresh and intense and we fall in love and out of love and back in love, maybe with ourselves, music provides the soundtrack to our wanderings. It grounds us, inspires us.

I’m never going to care about something the way I care about Hanson’s “MMMBop.” I mean, it’s just a fact.

But that’s okay. We grow, change, experience new things. It’s natural for our interests to morph, too.

Regardless, I just opened Maroon 5’s “Songs About Jane” and found “Through With You,” a song iTunes tells me I haven’t listened to since 2009.

And I sang along with every word.

I think that means something, too.


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36 thoughts on “Music of another decade

  1. Back in December, when I leased a new car, a three month trial of Sirius XM radio was included. I found the 90s channel and gave it listen expecting not to care for it much. I was immediately transported back to high school and was able to sing along to most of the songs. How does that happen!?!? Maybe music never really leaves us? No matter how much time goes by or how much our tastes may change.

    • So true, Katie! Those songs are burned into our memories somewhere, and I’m pretty sure we’ll still be singing them in 50 years. Kind of comforting, actually.

  2. Great post!. I don’t listen to music like I used to either. It used to be a recreational pursuit. The other day I was looking through the garage for my box of bulbs for the garden and came across a box of 45RPM records. Like your pink ITunes it was as if I had uncovered a musical time capsule, but going back much further than a decade. I found Al Green, Van Morrison, and even Shout by Otis Day and the Knights, to name a few. Now that was music.

    • Music is best when cranked to a volume just slightly lower than painful . . . though don’t tell my doctor I said that. 🙂

  3. Had totally forgotten about Hanson! Whatever happened to them?

    I feel a strong resonance with music from my childhood. Today’s stuff? Not so much. That’s why I listen to classical music most of the day.

    • Hanson is still rockin’, my friend! My sister and I have seen them in concert almost a dozen times in the last fifteen-ish years. They had a new album out in 2013 and continue to evolve. I love them just as much as I did when I was 12, though we’re all older and married and tired now. 🙂

  4. Music keeps me *sane.* It’s only with my husband that I’ve learned to not listen to music as I fall asleep at night. My classic iPod has all my music on it.

    • My guy still has his first-generation vintage iPod (funny to call anything Apple “vintage” but, you know, it is more than a decade old), and all his favorite music lives on there. I used to fall asleep listening to music, too, but now I favor the good ol’ rain sound machine. Wish I wasn’t dependent on that, even!

      • Heh, I still have my second generation “vintage” iPod as well. I dented the back and rendered it useless. It’s so clunky compared to my iPod now. I’m pretty sure my husband would still protest over a rain sound machine. 🙂

  5. One of the things that we do with our kid(s), although my daughter is now living in a town two hours away as a college student, is to sit around on the odd evening and just play music. Everyone gets to choose a song – we rotate in order. No one gets to complain about anyone else’s choice, although good-natured mockery is acceptable. My husband and I will have a craft beer or a glass of wine, the kids will have a soda or a hot chocolate and we just hang as a family. My kids introduce me to their music, and they hear the songs of my youth – from Toad the Wet Sprocket to REM to The Cars.

    We especially love to do this in the summertime, when we can sit outside late into the evening and watch the stars come out, or in the wintertime, in front of the fireplace. All the better if it is snowing.

    It’s good times.

  6. I go through phases of listening to music, too. I also hate silence when working so I tend to stream Pandora or Spotify in the hopes of finding something new and exciting. I don’t know why it seems so much harder to find good music these days but sometimes it’s just easier to go back to those old college-era favorites that I know will make me happy no matter what.

    • Quite true, Stephanie. I do listen to the radio at work from time to time and will discover a song I like, but I’m rarely motivated enough to download an album by a new-to-me artist. When I do, I tend to be disappointed — and just go back to my older stuff, anyway.

  7. Interesting post. I have never in any decade of my life stopped listening to and loving music. Of course that could have a lot to do with the fact that I am a classical musician and I married a musician of a different sort. Now our children are music lovers, too.

    I will admit to a special fondness for the 80’s music I discovered as a teen, though. I still love Duran Duran with all my heart. I get a kick out of hearing what my kids love now. Also, when my husband and I made our birth plan with our first child he created a playlist for me that I listened to during part of my labor. It’s no wonder our kids love music as much as we do.

    • Two musicians in the family would definitely impact your level of appreciation, and that’s great your children are also into music these days! That’s cool about the birth playlist . . . I’ve thought about that, but not sure what I would want to include.

  8. I totally understand your move toward being all about music in college, to falling out of it as we progress into our mid- to late-20’s, because I am totally there with you, sister. I remember thinking in high school that I needed to be hip to all the music trends, which evolved into constantly listening to my iPod in college (I am also a big fan of the solitary walks across campus listening to Death Cab … I went to their concert a year ago, and got super emotional during ‘Marching Bands of Manhattan’ because it brought me RIGHT back to freshman year).

    However, I am a now a huge fan of Pandora. I know some people like Spotify, but Pandora works great for me. I like creating radio stations around favorite artists (Avett Brothers, Metric), as well as Pandora’s pre-made stations that you can curate as you go along (right now, Classical for Studying and Hipster Cocktail Party are my favs). I’ve found that this is a really lazy, but great, way to “discover” music, even as I find, getting older, that there are more pressing things that need my attention.

    Also, take it from someone who worked from home for years: if you’re freaked out by a quiet house, buy a cheap radio, put it somewhere you can hear throughout the house, and keep it on a classical radio station. Bonus: you immediately feel more cultured!

    • Good call on Pandora, Laura! I have the app on my phone, but I rarely put it on except for Christmas tunes at the holidays. And yay for Death Cab! “Marching Bands of Manhattan” is a good one. To this day, I can’t listen to “We Looked Like Giants” or “Transatlanticism” without tearing up.

      Love your idea about the radio, too! I left the TV on last week because I hated the silence in the house, but that’s not exactly energy-efficient.

  9. I only listen to music when I work out, in the car is audio…. all audio all the time. 🙂 My music of choice is the 80’s so I totally understand where you are coming from. Just yesterday I was belting out the words to some 80’s song while on the treadmill feeling just as impassioned as any hair band. lol

    • Oh, ’80s music is the best for exercising, Sheila! I don’t have to tell you that. 🙂 That and loud, older pop — like Britney Spears. Not that I’m any expert on work-outs . . . ha!

  10. Ah the soundtrack of our lives 🙂 I listen to some of the “new” groups/singers – but will always go to 70’s music for comfort, fun and enjoyment. I met my husband, got married, and had the first of my 3 sons in the 70’s. Thanks to Sirius & my old albums scanned and on my computer/phoneI can hear my favs whenever I want. I’m also a fan of 40’s big band. I dunno 🙂

    • All excellent choices! We all have those musical associations with the special times in our lives. Not sure what I’ll reflect on when Baby J is older, but I’m sure I’ll remember some of the music of the ’10s! (What in the world are we supposed to call this decade — the teens?! So weird.)

  11. Lovely post!

    So, what did you end up choosing for your first dance? 🙂 That was super important to me, for some reason! It was one of the first things I wanted to do as far as wedding planning went. I made a playlist of songs for Jerry of all the songs I was considering, and he chose “Crazy Girl” by Eli Young Band from the list… I’m a huge country fan!

    • Our first dance was “Hold Onto Hope Love” by Amy Stroup, a song I found randomly and fell in love with. Though we didn’t have any specific memories attached to it, I can’t listen to it now without remembering how I felt on that dance floor with Spence! Not sure if I’ve listened to it since the wedding, actually. I’m pretty sure I’d start crying like a hormonal lunatic . . . which I totally am.

  12. My ability to remember music from a decade ago is similarly uncanny..especially when I can’t remember what I had for lunch two days ago!

  13. We listened to a late 90s playlist at work last night and I was honestly surprised at some of the songs I knew all the words to. Songs I didn’t even remember came right back out of my mouth… weird.
    And I’m guessing we keep our teens and twenties songs with us forever… probably cause that’s when we were coolest, and it’s all downhill from there 🙂

    • Haha . . . I’d try to disagree with you, Sarah, but you’re totally right. Especially now that I’m pushing 30, well — I’m finding myself making more and more of the “kids today”-type comments that would have horrified me a decade ago. Those crazy whippersnappers . . .

  14. An enjoyable read! I’m listening to the Mamas & Papas as I write this … Mama Cass singing ‘Dedicated to the One I Love’ takes me straight back to the 70s, the shuffle and a dinner dance in a hotel with a real live band! It’s a changing world out there but I have my music to rekindle the memories …

    • Classics are classics for a reason! I love how music can instantly transport us to another time and place, for good or for ill. Hopefully mostly for good. 🙂

  15. I used to wonder how my parents could be so hopelessly out of touch with current music when I was a kid, but now that I’m 40 I get it: a job, a house, bills, a kid…who has time to keep up with Drake and Lady Gaga? Give me Depeche Mode or The Smiths any day. Let me slip into my favorite high school music like a comfortable pair of jeans so I can focus on what’s important to me now!

  16. I have an iPod, and a CD player and a cell phone that can have music on it. I’m a gadget addict. I travel by bus sometimes and that’s when I listen to music. 50s through now. Yes, I have always loved music. My children also love it, some even write their own. I have noticed that when I go too long without my Playlist that something withdraws in me. This is a great piece. It causes reflection. That’s always a plus. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Pingback: I can’t hear you over my awesome mix tapes | Untitled, Unfinished

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